US President Donald Trump announced that the US and its allies – UK and France – launched a precision attack on Syrian chemical weapons sites on Friday evening.
"A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad," Trump said in a televised address to the nation.
US President Donald Trump speaks during a televised statement to announce launching strike on Syria at the White House in Washington, Apr.13, 2018./VCG Photo
Though the strikes have come as a surprise to many, Lan Shunzheng, a military expert, points out that the primary motivation for the strikes is to retain the country's political and economic interests in the Middle East.
With the increasing cooperation between Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syria, the US' leadership in the region has been severely challenged in the past few years, and Syria has always been a hotspot for geopolitical reasons.
A Rafale warplane preparing for take off at the Saint-Dizier aerial military base in eastern France, Apr.13, 2018./VCG Photo
"Striking on Syria could be seen as a strong message sent from Washington to warn Moscow – don't move my cheese!" Lan adds.
Other experts agree that the move is a deterrent against Russia's expansion in the Middle East. "It's a direct call to Russia and Iran that their actions in the region over the past few years have undermined US interests," said CGTN reporter Nathan King.
Anti-aircraft fire is seen over Damascus, Syria, in the wee hours of April 14, 2018. /VCG Photo
King argues that Trump's motivation is twofold – to force Putin to stop pushing Russian influence in the Middle East, and to punish the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons.
Though the missile strikes are a challenge to Russia, the US has also deliberately chosen sites that avoid areas where Russian forces are deployed. "It is a demonstration of the US' purpose. The US just intends to prevent Russians from leading in the Middle East rather than fighting with them," King said to CGTN.
Syrians wave Russian and Syrian flags during a protest against US-led air strikes in Damascus, Syria on Apr.14, 2018./VCG Photo
Because the strike is limited, Middle East affairs expert Edmund Ghareeb, predicts there will be no escalation with Russia. Instead, the strike will get all sides to sit at the table and explore a political solution to the Syrian crisis, as there's no military solution, says Ghareeb.
The best way to tackle the problem of Syria's increasing use of chemical weapons is through negotiation, which has proven effective before. "There is an Astana process and a Geneva process. The Astana process – where Iran, Russia, Turkey and some other powers are involved – have achieved some progress," Ghareeb said to CGTN. The US' unilateral action for a strike in absence of approval from UN Security Council has ruined all efforts made by the international community to solve the problem. "Clearly, the US is just using using chemical weapons as an excuse to shatter Russia's interest in Middle East," notes Ghareeb.